Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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An exploration of the synergies, parallels, and divergences between ESDM and music therapy with preschool children with autism, in a music therapy student’s practice.

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posted on 2021-09-30, 23:29 authored by McPhee, Holly

This qualitative research explores the possibility of an interaction between music therapy and the Early Start Denver Model with preschool children with autism spectrum disorder. Both interventions have been shown to be effective at improving social, emotional and communication skills in young autistic children, and share some use of music and some focus on developmental goals. My findings were generated from Secondary Analysis of Data using my qualitative clinical notes and reflective thoughts from a music therapy setting and an Early Start Denver Model setting. I focused on my use of music in sessions at each setting and found three main themes in the data – building a therapeutic relationship; singing to engage, with primary and secondary focus on the music; and moment of discomfort. A large proportion of my data related to using music to build a positive therapeutic relationship with the child, which is necessary to achieve both the wider goals typical of a music therapy setting and the more specific goals of the Early Start Denver Model setting. My data also showed that the humanistic approach of music therapy and the behavioural approach of the Early Start Denver model created tension in my practice in both settings. My research concluded that there are parallels and synergies which could positively inform each intervention but there may be too many divergences to create one cohesive therapy, due to their differences in approach.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Music Therapy

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Music Therapy

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

New Zealand School of Music


Warren, Penny